Generally speaking, it is hard to beat the Carolina Panthers when your quarterback plays worse than Jake Delhomme. Such was the Falcons fate on Sunday. I am of two minds on Matt Ryan's slump. On the one hand, his accuracy has taken a definite slide. Normally, when a young quarterback struggles, it's because he makes bad decisions, doesn't recognize coverage, and then throws the ball into spots that he shouldn't. That's not the case with Ryan. Matt is making good decisions with the ball, but he isn't putting his passes where he should. That would seem to indicate that he has a fixable mechanical problem, which is a less concerning problem than an inability to make good decisions.
We're all a little queasy about Ryan's slump because of our collective experience with the Falcons' last young phenom signal-caller. Mike Vick's best season was his first year as a starter. He regressed thereafter to the point that his Untergang was a blessing in disguise for the franchise. There is a slight sense of deja vu for Falcons fans with Ryan having played on a very high level as a rookie and then regressing as a second-year player.
On the other hand, I do have concerns about Mike Mularkey's offense. Daryl Johnston can be a fairly perceptive analyst and he was surprised that the Panthers were covering the Falcons' passing routes so well on Sunday. His reasoning was that Michael Turner was running the ball so well that the playaction plays should have been wide open. Instead, the Panthers were jumping the routes, which indicated that they knew what was coming. It is true that Ryan threw high on his first pick, but it's also true that there was a linebacker in his passing lane who forced him to throw high. That linebacker should not have been able to make such a deep, effective drop if the Panthers were truly concerned about the run. So the question is this: what did the Panthers figure out that allowed them to guess run/pass right. Was there a tell from one or more of the players' stances? Are Mularkey's play-calling tendencies that pronounced? Methinks some self-scouting might be in order.
So here's a final question. Let's assume that John Fox figured out the Falcons' offense. Does he share the tell with the New York Giants, his former employer? Or does he keep the information as a trade secret for the future. Also, the Panthers might end up fighting with the Giants for a wild card spot, so maybe he doesn't want to help them out.